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Fighting Sioux 23
07-28-2011, 10:32 AM
I thought I'd post my summer predictions for the upcoming season, and hopefully we can have a good discussion about it. At this point, as the past few weeks of defections up to major juniors has shown us, anything can happen, so take the rankings with a grain of salt.

#1 Denver - Denver was the obvious #1 choice prior to Brittain's injury, and despite the fact that it does not look promising for Sam to get back in the lineup until late in the season, Denver still has the tools to skate the MacNaughton around Magness Arena come March. Sophomore Jason Zucker should be the Pioneer to keep an eye on, as he tallied up 45 points as a Freshman. Also, look for Beau Bennett to put up some very good numbers, provided that he can stay healthy. Denver should be able to put up goals, so if Murray is able to provide average goaltending, look for DU to sit atop the WCHA Standings at the end of the season.

#2 Colorado College - Jaden Schwartz was arguably the best freshman (if not best player) in the country last year, despite the fact that he missed a good portion of the season. He is back, and will be my preseason pick for player of the year. He is dynamic and makes everyone around him better, and for that reason should have CC contending for some hardware in March and April. Goalie Jon Howe had a solid sophomore campaign, and will be crucial to CC's success. While their blueline had some struggles last year, they return nearly everyone from that group and should improve as a unit. I would not be surprised if CC hoists the MacNaughton this season, but right now I have them slightly behind their rival DU.

#3 Minnesota Duluth - The defending Champions will be skating with more confidence this season, and the return of leading scorer Jack Connolly will have the Bulldogs aiming to pick up a conference championship. JT Brown will look to pick up where he left off, and that was dominating the game. Brown was a critical piece for Duluth as they won the Title, picking up the Frozen Four MVP, and as a sophomore will be looked upon to help pick up some of the scoring. Given that, IMO, Aaron Crandall will be the key to the Bulldogs' success in 2011-2012. He was brilliant at times and shaky at others, but that is very common for a freshman. If he can be the solid backbone of UMD's defense, they will be neck and neck for the MacNaughton. If not, they will have a dogfight for home ice.

#4 Nebraska Omaha - Dean Blais begins his third season at Omaha, and has the Mavericks in a position as a preseason favorite. While last season they snuck up on many in the WCHA, and had a great run, this season they will have somewhat of a bullseye on their backs. UNO had a very balanced attack last season, and despite graduating their top three scorers, have 5 20+ point scorers (3 of which were freshman) coming back. Look for Matt White (25 pts) and Ryan Walters (23 pts) to lead UNO to another balanced attack this season. While I don't see the Mavericks challenging for the MacNaughton Cup, I do see them getting home ice.

#5 Minnesota - The last few seasons have not been storybook endings for the Gophers, but perhaps the biggest detriment to the team is now gone. With that being said, Minnesota has a talented group of incoming freshmen that should be able to spark Minnesota back to life. Despite losing their top three scoring forwards and top two scoring blueliners, the Gophers should have enough firepower to outscore last years team. With the hire of Mike Guentzel, Minnesota should see improvement on the defensive end, and if Kent Patterson can step up to the role of #1 goalie, don't be surprised if Minnesota finds itself in the top 3 or 4. That being said, the Gophers will struggle to score, and if they don't get the improvement that they need on the blueline, Minnesota may find itself on the road for the WCHA playoffs for the second time in three years.

#6 North Dakota - Last season was a great run and while coach Dave Hakstol has had issues at the Frozen Four, he has always put his team in contention, and should do the same this season. North Dakota brings back last year's surprise in Aaron Dell, and also second leading scorer Corban Knight. In addition, the Sioux will return much of their biggest strength, their d-corps. They will also have one of the more talented prospects coming through their doors in Rocco Grimaldi, who has impressed at every level that he's played at. North Dakota will struggle to score, but their blueline and Dell should keep the Sioux in most games. If their freshmen adjust early, and a player or two step up to fill the scoring void left by last year's seniors and early departures, North Dakota can compete for the MacNaughton. That being said, if their blueline falters and Dell has a sub-par season, the Sioux could be traveling for the playoffs, something they haven't done in ten years.

#7 Alaska Anchorage - The Seawolves surprised me last season. I thought that they would be a bottom dweller, and wound up finishing 8th and knocking off Minnesota in a sweep in the WCHA Playoffs. While they lost their top scorer, Anchorage returns two standout freshmen who put up 20+ points in Bailey and Kwas. Along with several other underclassmen, UAA should be able to improve on last seasons performance. They lost only 1 blueliner, and have two sophomore goalies that have proven they can steal a game or two if need be. If the Seawolves can get continued improvement out of their juniors and sophomores, they will surprise me again, and perhaps many of you as well and get home ice. However, if they have let downs defensively, they might surprise in a different way and find themselves back in the cellar.

#8 Wisconsin - Last year, I felt that Colorado College was a team that could finish just about anywhere from about 3rd through 9th and it wouldn't surprise me. This year, Wisconsin is that team. They lost a lot through graduation and early departures, but Mike Eaves typically has the Badgers competing for NCAA bids and home ice. There is room for optimism, as leading scorer Justin Schultz returns back to the blueline, and sophomore to be Mark Zengerle looks to improve on his 36 point freshman campaign. The Badger blueline should be solid again despite losing Jake Gardiner, but Wisconsin will be looking to unproven netminders to shore up any errant blueline mistakes. It will be a trying season for Mike Eaves, and I wouldn't be surprised if he righted the ship and had the Badgers skating come late March and April. For now, there are too many question marks for me to put them higher.

#9 St Cloud State - SCSU is similar to Wisconsin, in that I wouldn't be surprised if they finished in a variety of different positions. I do think that 9th is the lowest that they will finish, but I also think they have a lot of question marks that prevent me from placing them much higher. Another thing is that the WCHA is loaded with talent this year, and it will be difficult to pick up points on just about any given weekend. That being said, SCSU does have some positives coming into the season. Leading scorer Drew Leblanc is back, along with Cam Reid and Ben Hanowski. The Huskies will rely heavily on them to put pucks in the net. Perhaps the biggest question mark for St Cloud is in net. While Lee has been solid more often than not, he has not be as consistent and has not stolen as many games as many would like. This year, he is a junior, and should put up much better numbers. If he does, St Cloud will be in the hunt for home ice and NCAA bids. If he does not, SCSU will finish as low as 9th.

#10 Bemidji State - The Beavers struggled in their first year in the WCHA. They also lost perhaps the best player in the WCHA in Matt Read, along with three other seniors who were top-7 scorers on the team. That being said, Bemidji returns Brad Hunt and Shea Walters, along with perhaps their most important piece of the puzzle, Dan Bakala. It will be on Bakala's shoulders that Bemidji's hopes will ride. He has shown that he can steal a game, but also struggled at times. Almost the entire Bemidji blueline is back, so that should take a little of the pressure off the netminder, but I feel that Bemidji's success rides with Bakala. If he puts up an amazing senior season, Bemidji could get home ice, and find themselves back in the NCAA Tournament. If he struggles, Bemidji will struggle to win games.

#11 Michigan Tech - New coach Mel Pearson leads his alma mater into the 2011-2012 season. There is hope that Pearson will be able to turn things around in Houghton, and perhaps he will, but it will take more than just one season. Pearson is a master recruiter, and the future looks bright in that regard for Tech. However, this season looks like it will be a struggle. Tech was arguably one of the worst teams in college hockey last season, despite getting off to a solid start. The Huskies will improve this season, and should reach double-digit win totals that has eluded the program for the past few seasons. They do return 9 of their top 10 scorers from a season ago, and if they can get stellar seasons out of either Genoe or Robinson, perhaps the Huskies will surprise a few people and finish a few spots higher.

#12 Minnesota State Mankato - Last is Mankato. The Mavericks are coming off a disappointing campaign, and behind head coach Troy Jutting, are not inspiring their fans. They lost arguably their top three defensemen, which will put a lot of pressure on Junior Phil Cook. If scorers like Dorr and Hayes can light up the lamp, it will keep the Mavs in games, but unless they get a resounding effort out of everyone else, Mankato will struggle. If Cook has an amazing season and the Mavericks put up plenty of goals, they can finish perhaps as high as 7th or 8th, but I see them finishing in the bottom three.

FadeToBlack&Gold
07-28-2011, 11:15 AM
Pretty good. Pearson will begin his era with more talent at forward than many think, but 75% of that talent will be freshmen or sophomores. The defense will be our Achilles heel - there are maybe one or two defensemen with the talent to play the style Pearson will be trying to build towards. I expect both goalies are still going to see a lot of rubber.

First Time, Long Time
07-28-2011, 11:49 AM
St. Cloud's question isn't Lee, it's the defense in front of him.
Lee can't do it by himself, the D has to start helping him out.

dave29
07-28-2011, 11:54 AM
I think CC could win it over DU especially with Brittain out. These two teams are very close and could have a battle this season for the title like they did back in 04-05.

alnike
07-28-2011, 12:10 PM
My thoughts on the 2011-12 WCHA

(I think Denver and CC will be ranked in the top 5 of preseason NCAA polls. North Dakota should be ready to challenge in the March playoffs too.)

1. Denver - Easy pick for #1 with a healthy goalie, still think they finish in first led by all the sophomores.
2. Colorado College - Key players at each position and Schwartz may be top college player.
3. North Dakota - Despite all the losses, still think they remain a player based upon solid D and G.
4. Nebraska Omaha - next wave of players ready to contribute
5. Duluth - Connolly and Brown need others to step up
6. Minnesota - is this the year they return to the NCAA's?
7. Wisconsin - Schultz, Schultz and more Schultz
8. St. Cloud - Tough league when decent teams finish 8th.
9. Anchorage -
10. Mankato St -
11. Bemidji State -
12. Michigan Tech - Pearson's rebuilding efforts begin

gopher wes
07-28-2011, 12:24 PM
I think your last comment about AA faltering down the stretch may be accurate. I don't see them finishing ahead of SUCS and sconnie. My prediction is like this(with MUCH less detail ;) ) :

1. DU - I think almost everyone has them picked to finish 1 or 2.
2. UND - I feel like they will be there at the end no matter what.
3. CC
4. UMD
5. UNO
6. UW
7. UM - This feels like kind of a stretch for me.
8. SCSU - I would even put them 7. I love the optimism around the Gophers and Guentzel but I still don't see them turning it around this year.
9. AA
10. BSU
11. Kato
12. Tech - Gonna take a couple years to get them back on track?

I'd say 4 - 8 on my list are very interchangeable and depending on how UND fairs, I would think they will even be in that mix.

JF_Gophers
07-28-2011, 12:26 PM
12. Tech - Gonna take a couple years to get them back on track?Funny, since in a couple years they will be in a much easier league. :D

gopher wes
07-28-2011, 01:50 PM
Funny, since in a couple years they will be in a much easier league. :D
I wasn't even thinking of it lik that. I hope they can make it out of the cellar this year and be at least kind of competitive in two years, but its hard to say.

SanTropez
07-28-2011, 02:36 PM
Nice work FS23, here is my dart throw.

1. Denver
2. UMD
3. M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A
4. UND
5. CC
6. UNO
7. Becky
8. Jan Brady
9. The Beav
10. UAA
11. Techies
12. Mankato State Community College of Minnesota

goldy_331
07-28-2011, 03:19 PM
#6 North Dakota -

I thought sandbagging season was done for the year in ND. :p

UND are certainly in the top 4, probably top 3 again this year. Though I'd love to be wrong on that...

Fighting Sioux 23
07-28-2011, 04:08 PM
I thought sandbagging season was done for the year in ND. :p

UND are certainly in the top 4, probably top 3 again this year. Though I'd love to be wrong on that...

I certainly was not intending to sandbag. I think North Dakota will struggle early with scoring, and while their defense and goaltending should keep them in a lot of those games, they will likely lose. I do think by February and March that the Sioux will be playing top-3 or 4 hockey and will have a chance to three-peat for the Broadmoor and could make another run at the Frozen Four. I just think they will have early struggles which will handicap them in making a push for top 3 status. I could see them finishing about as high as fourth with what they have. The only way I see them finishing top 3 is if one of DU, CC and UMD falter and North Dakota has a lot of cards fall their way.

SJHovey
07-28-2011, 04:30 PM
I certainly was not intending to sandbag. I think North Dakota will struggle early with scoring, and while their defense and goaltending should keep them in a lot of those games, they will likely lose. I do think by February and March that the Sioux will be playing top-3 or 4 hockey and will have a chance to three-peat for the Broadmoor and could make another run at the Frozen Four. I just think they will have early struggles which will handicap them in making a push for top 3 status. I could see them finishing about as high as fourth with what they have. The only way I see them finishing top 3 is if one of DU, CC and UMD falter and North Dakota has a lot of cards fall their way.I agree with your prediction, with one change. I see CC edging DU for the Mac. That BC game could really give CC some confidence.

UND will be in a battle for home ice, but I see them making it, somewhere in the 4-6 range, with 6 more likely than 4. I only see us catching UMD, CC and DU if one of them gets a rash of injuries or if UND gets a monster year out of someone like Kristo and at least one of the incoming freshmen. If Grimaldi has a Zucker like season, we stay healthy and we get big seasons out of Kristo and maybe Nelson, we might sneak into the top 3.

SCSU Euro
07-28-2011, 07:18 PM
1. Du
2. Und
3. Uno
4. Cc
5. Uw
6. Umd
7. Scsu
8. Mn
9. Bsu
10. Uaa
11. Mtu!
12. Msu-m

manurespreader
07-28-2011, 08:13 PM
I think DU is loaded and runs away with it. I'd pick CC up there next except the defense to me is suspect and goaltending is pretty average. I think the CC forwards are the best in the NCAA though. I look for UND late also and I think UMD will be tough. so here's my darts as well.It's worth it to pick a few upsets as nothing ever goes as it appears.

1. DU
2. UMD
3. UND
4. UNO
5.CC
6.AA
7 UMTC/Becky
8. STC
9.MTU
10. Beavers
11.Mankato

PenaltyBoxBeast
07-28-2011, 08:38 PM
1) Colorado College
2) UND
3)UNO
4) DU
5) UMD
6) Wisconsin
7) UMTC
7) UAA
8) MSU
9) St. Cloud
10) BSU
11) Tech

Ladies and gents, this is the Tigers year. I won't even touch on our offense, it's going to be powerful. Our D-Core got significantly better in the offseason. 2 NHL draft picks will join Gabe Guentzel and standout freshman Eamon McDermmot on the blue line. With the return of Eric Rud as our assistant coach, he specializes in defense and special teams, our back line is sure to bring down the GAA from last season. Goal tending will be a strength. Howe had a rough year last year and alone cost us maybe 5-6 games. At the end of the season, he took over and got hot. Just look at the BC and Michigan games in St. Louis. Josh Throrinbert, the back, will be a star. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he takes the reigns from Howe at some point.

Looking at the rest of the league, I'm expecting Omaha and UND to be powers making it a three horse race to the finish with CC. DU, goalie issues are going to be the reason why the Pi's will fail. It's Okay, even with Britian, I think they would still suck. Anchorage is my big surprise pick. If they quit playing like goons, they'll have a shot. Another team to watch is Tech. New coaching staff my yield a few more wins this season.

Once again, I feel the WCHA is be extremely competitive and the points separating #1 from #6 will not be substantial.

CCtig
07-28-2011, 09:00 PM
COLORADO COLLEGE #1

All others 2-11, with Metro State Pioneers (or is it Denver State Roadrunners?) 12

Go CC Tigers!!

uaafanblog
07-29-2011, 03:51 AM
Anchorage is my big surprise pick. If they quit playing like goons, they'll have a shot.

2010-2011 WCHA Conference Penalty Minutes:
#6 - Colorado College 387
#8 - UAA Seawolves 382

So um ... there's that.

section16rowA
07-29-2011, 06:43 AM
I will also say great work FS23, but picking NoDak 6th is RiDQulous. Call it sandbagging or whatever, it just ain't gonna happen, the Sioux are always at or near the top, hence:

1. DU
2. UND
3. CC
4. UMD
5. UNO
6. Goofs
7. Badgers
8. SCSU
9. AA
10. BSU
11. Tech
12. Mankato

SanTropez
07-29-2011, 08:43 AM
2010-2011 WCHA Conference Penalty Minutes:
#6 - Colorado College 387
#8 - UAA Seawolves 382

So um ... there's that.

Except playing like goons and actual penalty minutes are not directly related.

SJHovey
07-29-2011, 09:11 AM
I will also say great work FS23, but picking NoDak 6th is RiDQulous. Call it sandbagging or whatever, it just ain't gonna happen, the Sioux are always at or near the topThat's actually not true.

In Hak's first six seasons, beginning in 2004-05, his teams actually finished in 5th, or tied for 4th and 5th, (right above the home ice cut off in a 10 team league) 3 times.

This season could be very comparable to Hak's first team. They came in with a lot of questions on offense, having lost most of their goal scoring from the year before. Ended up by having a freshman lead them in goals.

It will be a grind for the Sioux this year, but by the end I expect them to be very competitive.